Published September 05, 2012
The first night of the convention in Charlotte was a good one overall for Democrats. It was masterfully laid out. The order of the evening's top to speakers was reversed from the order in Tampa where the Republicans led with Mrs. Romney first and the night's keynote speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie second. Tonight's version was much better. It allowed the evening to build up to a much more emotional high.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was good but not masterful. He was telling a story of opportunity. His speech was a themeless pudding. The one line that I thought was really effective was, "in the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay."
But what exactly does going "forward" with Barack Obama mean?
I did think it was interesting how many times he mentioned God, and I couldn't help but wonder how many times the speech was rewritten.
The Democrats were smart to put him first and Michelle Obama second.
A theme that ran through the night, that was almost jarring after Tampa, is that the Democratic party is the party of government. The subtext of every speech was a defense of what government does for people.
In the end, every discussion of opportunity involved government. That's a real subtext that was on display Tuesday night. The focus on government as the answer doesn't solve the Democrat's "you didn't build it" problem.
Opportunity was defined in a framework of government, and achievement in the same way.
At the same time, Democrats in Charlotte were desperately trying to use words that didn't specifically say that. It was like they were trying to give Republican speeches about self-achievement but always in the context of government.
At the end of the evening First Lady Michelle Obama gave a very powerful defense of her husband's character, and it was quite effective. It's clear she practiced this speech and her delivery was masterful. (By the way, I thought the Democrats had a terrific video, too.)
In some ways, the speech struck me as over- earnest. I've heard other Democrats describe the Obama White House as a "near cult." The cult of personality was on full display Tuesday night. After all, Mrs. Obama was trying to sell the country on someone they already know. The only thing that wasn't mentioned in her speech was the family dog. But what do we expect -- it's her husband she's talking about.
The one fly in the ointment of the first lady's speech, and I have to admit that my jaw dropped, came when she said that "I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as us and them." That was shocking because it runs counter to so much of what we've learned about this president over the past four years.
That's why I don't think these kinds of speeches have much effect, because in the end this was such a glorification, if you will, of the trials, the tribulations the Obama family has faced that the speech came perilously close to over the top.
The country was treated to a lot of cotton candy on this first night of the convention. The staging was a success, there was a lot of cheering and happiness in the hall and America was fed more empty calories.
Tuesday night's speeches by Mayor Castro and Mrs. Obama did nothing to answer the larger question of the campaign: what is President Obama going to do in a second term and how is he going to solve the problem of jobs.
Patrick Caddell is a Fox News contributor.